To clarify the morphology of hepatitis C virus (HCV), an indirect immunogold electron microscopic study was carried out on two plasma samples with high HCV RNA titres using polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies specific to the putative HCV envelope protein. Spherical virus-like particles, 55 to 65 nm in diameter with spike-like projections, were found in 1.14 to 1.16 g/ml fractions after sucrose density gradient centrifugation. These particles were found only in HCV-infected blood donors and had morphological features similar to those of flaviviruses. Moreover, these particles specifically reacted with the polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies to the putative HCV envelope protein. This is the first known report in which the morphology of the HCV particle is clearly shown.


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